The Mystery of Equine Dementia

Can older horses be affected by senility or dementia, similar to elderly humans? Surprisingly, there has been very little medical research in this area.

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By: Nicole Kitchener |

Horses are living longer than ever before, so it stands to reason geriatric equines might be affected by mental decline in the same way elderly people are. According to the Canadian Alzheimer’s Society, dementia is fatal, progressive and not a normal part of aging in humans. Research has shown cats and dogs can suffer cognitive deterioration, but little work has been done to indicate the same in older horses. This article, published in Horse Sport in 2011, refers to a couple of studies that suggest dementia in horses is a possibility, and not just in older animals. A University of Florida paper notes horses suffering from injury to or conditions affecting the brain’s temporal lobe can suffer what could be considered dementia: “changes in normal habits, personality, attitude, reaction to the environment, or loss of learned skills.”

The article also describes specific steps horse owners can take if their horse is displaying signs of dementia, most notably calling a veterinarian immediately.

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